It could happen here

In connection with the British judges’ decision barring as foster parents people who disapprove of homosexuality, I posited that making gay marriage a Constitutionally protected civil right could expose conservative faiths to lawsuits.  Many had a hard time envisioning this, but legal expert Richard Epstein had exactly the same thought:

To this day there are thoughtful people in religious groups that continue to hold fast against gay marriage, and their rights to determine what happens to their membership are necessarily impacted by this decision, for there is nothing in the curt statement from the Obama administration which explains why the Constitution should not be read to require the President of the Congress to impose obligations on these organizations to accept gay couples into their ranks. Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics beware!

It’s entirely possible that, when it comes to gay marriage and the First Amendment, pluralism won’t work.

Rodney King got his 15 minutes of fame for (a) getting beaten up while resisting arrest; (b) having his name attached to some horrific riots; and (c) plaintively asking “Can we get along?”  The last is a great thought.  I’d like to get along with people better myself.  “Getting along,” though, presupposes that people have the same goals and values.  In our pluralist society, even when we have differences, we mostly limp along all right.  Elections shuttle different value systems in and out of power and (at least when the unions aren’t rioting) Americans expect a peaceful transition.

Still, even pluralist societies have bottom line values, things as to which we’re not willing to bend (although, lately, it’s getting harder to pinpoint just what those values are).  Up until recently, one of those values was that “marriage qua marriage” was a one man, one woman deal.  In recent years, we were willing to contemplate “civil unions,” but “marriage” remained sacrosanct.

Also, because of the First Amendment, another American bottom-line is that the government cannot meddle in religious doctrine.  Some confused people think the First Amendment outlaws religion, or outlaws religious people from participating in politics, but most understand that — unless they’re calling for human or animal sacrifice, or polygamy — the American government leaves religion alone.

I have said all along that the main problem with the gay marriage debate is that, by creating an entirely new bottom line (gay marriage) we’re going to see two bottom lines crash into each other.  You see, traditional male/female marriage meshed nicely with the vast majority of traditional religious norms.  Gay marriage, however, does not mesh with traditional religion.  While Progressive churches and synagogues have opened their doors to gay marriages, more traditional ones, especially the Orthodox Jewish faith and the Catholic Church, have not done so.

When I’ve raised this concern to people, they scoffed.  One liberal told me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He looked a bit taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Others, while acknowledging that my point has a certain intellectual validity, say that it will never happen.  I’m not so sure, especially after reading a story out of England involving a Pentecostal couple who were told that, as long as their religion held that homosexuality is not acceptable behavior, they could not foster needy children:

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application believing it was ‘doomed to failure’ because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs.

The couple deny that they are homophobic and said they would love any child they were given. However, what they were ‘not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing’.

What’s relevant to this post is that the judges explicitly held that homosexual rights trump religious rights:

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

Admitted, Britain does not have a First Amendment.  However, as I noted above, First Amendment or not, our government bars, and (when Mormons are involved) actively prosecutes, polygamy.  It does so despite the fact that polygamy was official doctrine for the Mormons and is official doctrine for the Muslims.  Likewise, although Voodoo is recognized as a religion, we don’t let practitioners engage in animal sacrifice.  In other words, First Amendment or not, the government will interfere in religious doctrine if it runs completely afoul of a bottom-line American value.

If gay marriage is deemed Constitutional, we suddenly have two conflicting bottom-line values — gay marriage and religious freedom.  I’m not predicting how this will turn out.  I’m just saying that, if I was the Catholic Church or an Orthodox synagogue, I’d start having my lawyers look at this one now.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Selling atheism — and why it’s a fundamentally nonexistent product at the end of the day

Ricky Gervais distinguished himself well yesterday by savaging the same people who usually savage us, the ordinary Americans.  The video makes for somewhat uncomfortable viewing, since the victims of Hollywood’s barbs are usually sitting anonymously in theaters and living rooms, not in the same room in which the insults are being issued.  Hollywood’s stars expected a cute celebrity roast and got, instead an auto de fe.

Watching Gervais, who is a very talented man, got me thinking about another aspect of his performance — his aggressive atheism.  I understand atheism.  I was an atheist for most of my life, and have now moved to theism.  Although my theism is informed by being Jewish, the fact is that I don’t hew to practice or doctrine.  I float freely, acknowledging that atheism is a lonely place to be, and one that doesn’t explain the world before the Big Bang, but not ready to commit to any definitive view of God.

What I never was, though, was an aggressive atheist.  I never felt the need to proselyte my lack of religion.  After all, what in the world was I selling?  There was no alternative vision.  There was just plenty of nothing.  No meaning or morality in this life, and no hope for the afterlife.  More than that, I didn’t see that the world would be a better bargain if everyone thought as I did.  Sure, I’d like to get rid of poisonous religions (you know what I’m talking about), or poisonous practitioners of decent religions, but I didn’t see a virtue in going beyond that.

The fact is that, even in my most atheistic days, I never lost track of the incredible stability and safety that the modern Judeo-Christian tradition provides us.  Gone are the days of witch burning, homosexual stoning, wife beating, and nation conquering Judaism and Christianity.  What we have, instead, when we look at cultures that hew to the Judeo-Christian traditions, are law, justice, grace, morality, generosity, etc.  Sure, not all people rise to those standards at all times, but they are the standards by which we measure ourself.

What do practitioners of aggressive atheism — the ones who savage religion and belligerently advertise their lack of same — get at the end of the day?  Where do they see Western society if they achieve their goal of proselytizing all of us into a complete lack of faith?  Will we be more moral?  I doubt it.  More generous?  Probably not.  Find more meaning in our lives?  Get real.  Fear death less?  Not likely.  Get along with each other better?  It is to laugh.

Atheists are selling a travel destination that no one, least of all the atheists themselves, would ever want to visit, let alone call home.  If you’re a “sophisticate,” it can be fun and can make you feel like a really smart logician to point out inconsistencies in the Bible (both Old and New Testament), or to point to the hypocrisy that mere mortals periodically bring to their understanding of religion.  Nevertheless, that intellectual superiority doesn’t offer any substitute for what it seeks to destroy through ridicule and logical argument.

Of truth and God in American politics

One of my oldest blog friends is Patrick O’Hannigan, a devout Catholic and a true humanist.  He has written a simply gorgeous article over at the American Spectator, about religion’s role in the public square.  Being Patrick, he manages to take this often challenging subject, and weave into ruminations about Palin, the Kennedy clan, and Hillaire Belloc.  Wow!

Liam Neeson — great voice, little brain

Liam Neeson, who does the voice of Aslan the Lion in the Narnia movies, has upset people by claiming that Aslan could as easily be Allah or Buddha as he could be Christ:

Ahead of the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next Thursday, Neeson said: ‘Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries.

‘That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.’

Apparently, despite providing Aslan’s voice, Neeson never read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, nor saw the movie, both of which are pretty accurate allegories for the crucifixion and resurrection.

Still, one can see where someone raised on a steady diet of cultural relativism might try to morph all religious figures into one big loving God-like thingie.   The problem is that C.S. Lewis explicitly rejected this approach in his last Narnia book.  Instead, he made it clear that there is only one God and that’s the Christian God.

In the Narnia series, my favorite book has come to be The Last Battle — which is the Biblical end of the world, Narnia style. Within that book, my favorite scenes take place after the Apocalypse, when the saved are in the Narnia version of Heaven.

When the heroes and heroines of past books arrive in their Heaven, they find there a Calormene. Caloremenes are Narnian’s arch enemies (and, interesting, given that the book was written in the 1950s, are clearly modeled on Muslims out of the Arabian nights). They reject Aslan (the Jesus figure) and instead worship Tash, an evil figure who is clearly meant to be the equivalent of Satan.  In other words, it’s highly probable that Lewis viewed Allah as a Satanic figure or, certainly, the un-God.

The Calormene’s presence in Heaven is, therefore, unexpected. It turns out, however, that the Calormene is an exceptionally honorable character who believes in Tash because he was raised to, but whose values are clearly in line with Aslan’s. Accordingly, when he arrives in Heaven, Aslan welcomes him, assuring him that all of his good acts by-passed Tash and were accorded directly to Aslan — hence his place in Heaven.

Lewis’ point, of course, is that the Christian God — Aslan or Jesus — focuses on man’s acts and is readily able to separate the wheat from the chaff. True religions encourage good behavior, but it is up to God in the afterlife to determine whether any individual actually “got it right” in terms of moral choices. God also has sufficient self-assurance to accept that some might not appear to accord him the proper respect on earth, because God looks at deep acts and beliefs, not superficial behaviors.

So Liam Neeson is totally wrong when he tries to morph Aslan/Jesus/Christian God into some generic good deity.  In the C.S. Lewis world, God is always God.  The only question is whether we humans have met his standards, not whether he has met ours.

They’ve always gotten it bass-ackward when it comes to religion and morality

The Chris Coons-Christine O’Donnell debate over the First Amendment has cast into stark relief the fact that the Left believes the First Amendment’s purpose is to keep religious people out of the public square.  I’ve blogged on this point before, so I won’t belabor it.  I’ll only say briefly that the Amendment’s language, the historical context, and the Founder’s contemporaneous writings all establish conclusively that they didn’t want the government to meddle in religion, not vice versa.

While looking for something else, I stumbled across a monologue from a Hollywood movie that perfectly sums up the Leftist view about the First Amendment, a view supported only by wishful thinking and religious animus, without any historical or textual support.  The movie is The Contender, which came out in 2000.   The plot is simple.  Democratic VP dies in office; President picks perfect liberal female politician to replace him; evil, hyper-religious Republican seeks to destroy her with footage showing her cheerfully participating in a gang bang; female politician refuses to defend herself; perfect Democratic president, knowing her rectitude, understands that it’s all a fake, and gets her appointed as VP.  End of morality story.

I’ve often cited to the movie as an example of navel gazing, because there’s a scene where the perfect liberal female plays solo basketball, all the while monologuing about how her own intuitive moral sense is the only guide she and the world need.  I can’t find the language, though, so you’ll just have to accept as true my take on it.

While I was looking for that language, though, I stumbled across some other language, which I haven’t thought about in years, and wouldn’t have thought about but for the Coons/O’Donnell debate.  This is from the end of the movie, when the triumphant perfect liberal female, in an address to Congress, puts the evil Republicans in their place, and provides spiritual manna to the good Democrats (emphasis mine):

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism. Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves, that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.

Do I need to add anything here?  No?  I didn’t think so.

Resist the urge to savage Christine O’Donnell regarding her understanding of the 1st Amendment *UPDATED*

Two of my absolute favorite political writers, Peter Wehner and Jennifer Rubin, have chastised O’Donnell for her recently reported constitutional error.  I think that, perhaps, they’re being unfair.  It’s clear from reading the news reports that the Constitutional portion of the debate was intended to be a pile-up on O’Donnell:

Also during the debate, O’Donnell stumbled when asked whether or not she would repeal the 14th, 16th, or 17th Amendments if elected.

“The 17th Amendment I would not repeal,” she said, before asking the questioner to define the 14th and 16th amendments, adding: “I’m sorry, I didn’t bring my Constitution with me.”

The 16th Amendment allows Congress to raise taxes without apportioning them among the states or tying the taxation to Census results. The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to everyone born in the United States. The 17th Amendment established direct election by popular vote of two U.S. Senators to each state.

I’m a lawyer and, beyond the 1st ten Amendments, plus the 13th and 14th, I too would have trouble nailing any given Amendment’s substance just by numerical reference.  Knowing the Constitution and “speaking the code” are two different things.

As for O’Donnell’s alleged ignorance about the 1st Amendment, I wouldn’t be too hasty.  I haven’t heard the audio from the debate, so I don’t know how exactly it played out.  I’m inherently suspicious of the media’s spin on it, though, simply because I know that they want to paint her as an uneducated hick, unsuited to higher office.  The context was that Coons was pushing the Leftist view, which is that the 1st Amendment essentially outlaws religion in any aspect of public life, leaving it to exist only within the four walls of the Church (or synagogue or temple) or the home.

Coon’s view, although the media heartily approves, is manifestly wrong.  The First Amendment’s carefully phrased language was intended to keep the federal government from establishing a state church, akin to the Church of England that had so recently controlled the colonies.  For those who didn’t worship at its altar, the Church of England still required taxpayer funding and it seriously restricted access to politics, employment and education.  The Founders wanted to ensure that American citizens wouldn’t never be forced to worship in a centralized government faith — or, worse, be penalized for refusing to so worship.  This is a far cry from outlawing faith entirely, which is where Coons is going.

Further, that same carefully phrased language was intended to ensure that local governments could, if they so desired, establish a faith:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”  (Emphasis mine.)  That emphasized phrasing makes it plain that other governing bodies can make laws respecting establishment of religion.  And indeed, at the time the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights, several of the States did have official churches.

If you doubt this, contrast the 1st Amendment’s language with that in the 2nd Amendment.  There, the Founders made plain that no governing entity, whether federal, state or civic, could pass any law limiting arms:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The 2nd Amendment is one example of passive voice being a good thing.

O’Donnell clearly understands the way in which the 1st Amendment was intended to work — and it’s entirely possible that, in the context of the debate, she was still laboring over these substantive  ideas when Coons, conversationally, threw out his constitutional quotation.  That would explain O’Donnell’s confusion.  Context is everything and, until I hear what happened there, I reserve the right to question the MSM’s reporting.

Even if the MSM is correct, though, that O’Donnell didn’t remember the precise phrasing in the 1st Amendment, the situation between the two candidates, Coons and O’Donnell, is still unequal.  When it comes to the 1st Amendment, Coons knows what it says, but doesn’t get what it means; O’Donnell gets what it means, but doesn’t know what it says.  And given a choice between the two, I’d always take the one who understands the Constitution, rather than the one who parrots it mindlessly and twists it to Marxist ends.

UPDATENeo-neocon caught the same fallacies in both Coons’ and the MSMs’ approach to the First Amendment.  And I should have known Rush would get there first.

UPDATE IIO’Donnell expounds upon her accurate understanding of the 1st Amendment.

Help please me determine whether an anti-O’Donnell news report is accurate *UPDATED*

I have to admit to being a little suspicious of an AP report that has O’Donnell appropriately saying that there’s nothing in the constitution about separation of church and state (that, as you know, comes from a letter Jefferson wrote), but then states that she does not know that the 1st Amendment says that Congress cannot establish a religion.

Here’s why I’m suspicious: The reporter says that Coons said that the Constitution says the feds cannot establish a religion, but doesn’t actually quote Coons directly. Immediately after, though, the report quotes O’Donnell verbatim when she asks “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?” I’m wondering why there’s no direct Coons quote. Is that because he didn’t actually express himself with the clarity the AP reporter implies or was this just a matter of elegant essay writing?

Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

Any help you can give would be much appreciated. Maybe O’Donnell really is ignorant about the Constitution, or maybe the AP is giving Coons a little help.

UPDATEApparently the report is accurate:

Coons said that creationism, which he considers “a religious doctrine,” should not be taught in public schools due to the Constitution’s First Amendment.  He argued that it explicitly enumerates the separation of church and state.

“The First Amendment does?” O’Donnell asked. “Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” Coons responded, reciting from memory the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“That’s in the First Amendment…?” O’Donnell responded.

What we now have are two Senatorial candidates who are ignorant about the First Amendment.  Coons knows what it says, but doesn’t get what it means; O’Donnell gets what it means, but doesn’t know what it says.

We only hate what we fear — why liberals hate the church and pay lip service to the mosque

You’ve all heard by now about the group of Massachusetts school children taken to a mosque where they were taught utterly fallacious history about Islam and America, and then led in prayer:

A mosque spokesperson is seen teaching the children that in Mohammed’s 7th century Arabia women were allowed to vote, while in America women only gained that right a hundred years ago. This seems to be an increasingly recurring theme in American schools – the denigration of western civilization and the glorification of Islamic history and values. In fact, just recently, the American Textbook Council revealed that the New York State high school regents exam whitewashes the atrocities that occurred during the imperialistic Islamic conquest of Christian Byzantium, Persia, the African continent, and the Indian subcontinent, even as it demonizes European colonialism in South America.

The mosque spokesperson also taught the students that the only meaning of Jihad in Islam is a personal spiritual struggle, and that Jihad has historically had no relationship with holy war. As far as we know, the school has not corrected these false lessons.

The above, trip to the mosque, the propaganda, and the prayers were all in the name of multiculturalism, of course….

Every conservative I know (myself included) had precisely the same reaction, often in precisely the same words:  This field trip would never have happened with a Catholic church.  That is, not only would it have been inconceivable to the powers that be within the school to introduce their charges to a church, if it had been conceivable — if a maverick teacher had said, “well, let’s balance the mosque trip with visits to a church and a synagogue and a Hindu temple” — the fecal matter would have hit the fan so quickly that it would have been raining poop for days.  The battle cry, of course, would have been that visiting a church (or synagogue or Hindu temple) violates the separation of church and state.

The interesting question is why the Left doesn’t perceive a similar separation problem when it comes to mosque and state.  I think it has to do with the liberal’s perception of an institution’s potential power over the masses.

A few months ago, I did a post about Rush Limbaugh, and the inordinate fear Leftists, not just extreme Leftists, but garden-variety Democrats, feel when they think about Rush.  After a lot of background talk (I do love my background talk), I boiled it down to my key thesis, which is that liberals fear Rush because he is the one they worry will penetrate their defenses, make them think, and change their minds:

It’s quite a high compliment to Rush that ordinary liberals believe he has extraordinary powers.  It isn’t every conservative radio or talk show host who is perceived as so compelling and seductive that he can destroy people’s world view in an instant.

It’s also very frustrating to me because, in a funny way, I agree with my liberal friends that Rush can rejigger their world view very quickly.  The only thing is that I don’t believe Rush works his magic through hypnotism and trickery.  Instead, I think Rush’s real magic lies in his ability to view the political world as a vast chess board, one on which he can see multiple future moves; his prodigious memory; his well-informed mind; his logical analyses; and his funny persona.  He convinces by appealing to our rational mind, our sense of humor, and our knowledge of the world as it is, and not as some Ivory Tower liberal tells us it should be.

So, whether by cajolery or challenge, I’m still trying to get my liberals to listen to Rush.  For all the wrong reasons, they’re right about one thing:  he will change their minds.

The same dynamic is at work when it comes to Leftists on the one hand, and mosques and churches on the other hand.  For all their multicultural bloviating, so-called liberals don’t think much of Islam.  They recognize that its moral teachings are limited (nothing clear and humanist like the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule), that its history is ugly, and that its current practice, with all the demands about daily prayers and handwashing and fasting, is not going to be that attractive to the majority of Americans.

The Progressives therefore don’t seriously believe that anyone can go to a mosque and convert.  Sure, if you go to prison you might convert, but anything looks good in prison.  Further, as my cousin, the prison pastor, says:

It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.

In other words, it’s not really a conversion at all.

Christianity, though, is scary.  If you’ve got a good minister or priest or pastor, suddenly all sorts of persuasive stuff is going to appearing on people’s radars and penetrate their ignorance or defenses.  You know what I mean:  Stuff about justice, about dignity, about respect, about love, about forbearance.  Worse, all this icky, non-Marxist stuff is going to fall on fertile soil, because even forty years of Progressivism in the public sphere hasn’t completely managed to leech away the Judeo-Christian beliefs that underlie American culture.  Worse, Christ doesn’t demand of his followers grueling physical rituals.  Instead, he demands faith.  Not lip service and clean feet, but faith.

Just as Rush is a threat to the Marxist/Progressive/liberal mindset, so too is Christianity (and, if you’re me, Judaism).  This cannot be said of Islam.  Even the most slobbering dhimmis would be hard put to imagine a world in which people, instead of just admiring Islam from afar because it’s politically correct to do so, would actually want to transfer their allegiance from the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Muslim faith.

Government uses religion to interfere with private company’s product

Abercrombie & Fitch is all about “the look.”  I mean, the whole point of the store is to get people, especially young people, to cough up money for “the look.”  To this end, the ads are soft porn, all aimed at showing the ultimate sexy cool.

Have I mentioned that I hate the whole Abercrombie thing?  As the mother of a teen, Abercrombie slots neatly into the parenting “pain in the neck”  category.  Nevertheless, hate it though I do, I recognize that in a free, capitalist society, when a store’s product is “the look” (’cause if you take away “the look,” all you’ve got are fairly ordinary clothes), the government ought not to be interfering with its image.

Yet our federal government is doing just that, solely so that a Muslim sales clerk can augment the unique sexy Abercrombie “look” with a hijab. A federal representative explains the thinking behind this decision to use taxpayer money and government coercion to bully a private corporation:

“This retailer that targets a youth market is sending the message that you cannot aspire to their ‘All American’ brand if you wear a head covering to comply with your faith,” said William Tamayo, the agency’s regional attorney.
Is this really what the feds should be doing with your money and their power?

As for me, I’m not going to be interviewing at a topless night club any time soon, both because I don’t think I happen to suit “that look” and because professional toplessness offends my belief systems.  I’m also not going to go to the feds demanding that they force the club to change its product to suit my sensibilities.

In this latter regard, I’d be acting entirely consistently with practitioners of all other religions, but for Islam.  They and I recognize that the demands of faith may close doors.  It’s not the government’s job to force those doors open.  Faith requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice may mean one doesn’t get to work at the trendiest store in the mall.

It is inconceivable that the Founders ever intended for the Constitutional proscription against the federal government meddling with matters of faith was intended to force private businesses to change their project, nay, to change their very core identity, to accommodate the fact that someone’s religion has become inconvenient in the pursuit of cool.

Zoning, religion, guns and the Bill of Rights

In the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, the Left’s trump card has been the language in the First Amendment stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  All of us correctly understand this to mean that government cannot create a state faith, nor can it dictate the religious tenets of an existing faith.  A subset of this, of course, is that government cannot, through indirect laws, make the practice of a given faith so difficult that it is tantamount to a religious proscription.

Shrill voices on the Left are now asserting, however, that the First Amendment must be understood to mean that an ostensibly religious building site cannot be touched by any other laws whatsoever, including zoning laws (which invariably include something about the character of the neighborhood) nor can it be the subject to that other First Amendment right, free speech.

The Left is much less excited about having Constitutional rights trump zoning laws when the subject is guns.  If one operates in a logical world, this is a peculiar Constitutional lapse.

Guns are virtually equal to religion in the Constitutional hierarchy, coming in at Second on the Amendment list:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Let me repeat that:  “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  This is very strong language, and arguably much broader in original intent than the First Amendment’s language regarding religion.  The First Amendment merely instructs Congress not to make a law establishing a religion, which we interpret to mean, as well, not to mess with existing faiths.  The Second Amendment, though, rebuffs any attempts whatsoever, whether by Congress or unnamed others (a reasonable inference given the passive voice construction), to mess with the right to bear arms.  It is, as phrased, a sacrosanct right.

Notwithstanding this explicit language, federal and local governments have for decades made laws messing with the right to bear arms.  One of the most significant laws is the way in which we mandate that the government gets to control every legal arms transaction.  Sales have to be in licensed stores, with massive amounts of paperwork, all going into government databases.  I’m not going to argue whether this is an infringement or not, although one could reasonable claim that these are indirect laws making the purchase of guns so difficult as to be tantamount to an arms proscription.  I’ll just note that it happens — and that Leftists are in the vanguard of making it so.

Those on the Left are also perfectly happy dictating the locations for gun shops, with San Francisco offering a perfect illustration.  In that once fair City, a totally legal gun shop, one that’s been in business for 50 years as the same location, is trying to re-open in the Bernal Heights district after a short hiatus.  Even as the local merchants pay lip service to the right to bear arms, they are up in arms (pun intended) that the means for facilitating this Constitutional right could appear in their neighborhood (emphasis mine):

Officially, the organizations are not opposed to people owning guns, Alliance member Jaime Ross told me. They’d just “rather have something the neighborhood could enjoy – a laundry or wine and cheese shop.”


[L]local Ingleside police Capt. Louis Cassanego says that as far as he knows, “there’s never been a problem.” The captain is for the permit “so long as certain precautions are taken,” including all legal requirements and then some. But e-mails he’s seeing are running 10-1 against the store’s permit application.

I’m willing to bet, although there is no way that I can prove it, that the same people writing those emails against the store’s permit application are strident in their denunciation of those who contend that the Ground Zero Mosque is inappropriate for the Ground Zero site.  Certainly my assumption would be consistent with the political ideological that animates support for the mosque and disdain for gun rights.

(A nice coda to this story, and one that gives it a lovely San Francisco twist, is the fact that one of the groups most strongly supportive of the store’s reopening is called the “Pink Pistols,” a gay gun rights organization.  An unofficial spokesman for that group explains that, since California has enacted a law prohibiting the sale of ammunition through the mail (yet another indirect law infringing on the right), it’s greener for City residents to be able to walk, bike or bus to the store, than to have to drive to a far away location.)

Everybody Draw Mohamed Day — or, you’re not the boss of me

Sometimes, to their creator’s dismay, ideas take on a life of their own.  In the wake of Comedy Central’s decision to censor a South Park episode that didn’t actually draw Mohamed, but merely suggested the possibility of doing so, Molly Norris came up with the idea of “everybody draw Mohamed Day.” Then, terrified by the realization that people actually thought her idea was a good one — and no doubt afraid of becoming the next chick-filet in the Islamic book of dead people — Norris quickly backed off.  As I said, though, good ideas have a life of their own, and drawing Mohamed is definitely a good idea.

It’s a good idea, quite obviously, because modern Western society is predicated on free speech.  Admittedly, there are gradations to that free speech, with America standing at the pinnacle of what is allowed and protected as an ordinary part of civil discourse.  Speech becomes increasingly more regulated as one travels through other Western nations.  Nevertheless, any nation that stands on the shoulders of the Enlightenment gives a nod to the importance of freely expressed ideas and information.  When we give up free speech, we give up a significant part of our identity.

Lately, though, European nations and American TV stations have willingly abandoned any semblance of commitment to the notion of free speech.  And what’s really dreadful about this practice is that it’s not even driven by the traditional rationale for speech restriction, which is to protect the ruling party from internal challenges to its control.  Instead, this is a purely fear-based abandonment.  It has nothing to do with principles or power.  It is, instead, a craven desire to avoid screaming mobs wielding sharp swords.

The various Western nations (and American TV stations) engaged in cultural retreat dress it up as respect for the “other.”  That respect, however, exists only because we fear that “other.”  Sam Harris, in what is probably the most worthy article the Huffington Post has ever published — and one that I strongly urge you to read — gets to the heart of the matter.  After discussing (1) Geert Wilder’s martyrdom at the hands of the Dutch political class for his film Fitna, a film that reveals how closely Islam tracks on Mohamed’s incendiary rhetoric, and (2) Kurt Westergaard’s life in hiding thanks to the very first Mohamed cartoons, Harris explains how Islam is gaming the West:

Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for “seeking to inflame” the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for “racism” and “Islamophobia.”

When we play into this Islamic game — “We, your resident Muslims, promise to live up to our putative reputation for peace as long as you don’t exercise those of your freedoms that put us in a killing rage” — we give up the essence of who we are.  We are no longer the heirs of Voltaire and the Enlightenment, of the Founders and the abolitionists.  We are no longer free people.  Instead, we are slaves to our fears, with our lives increasingly constrained by the random and irrational demands of small subsets of our western societies.

That the demands are irrational is another reason to resist the increasingly shrill imperative to cease and desist from creating and publishing any drawings that offend Muslim sensibilities.  And please keep in mind here that this is not just about Mohamed images.  In our short attention-span world, I’m willing to bet that large numbers of people have already forgotten that, in years past, Muslims have demanded that the countries in which they live change their ice cream logos, clean up the Piglet tissue boxes, and remove their historic statutory (or have it forcibly removed).

Zombie correctly points out that, once we start ceding to resident Muslims the right to determine what is provocative (to them, that is), there is no end:

This is not an argument over the right to be “provocative” or “offensive”; rather, is it something much more significant — an argument over who gets to determine what counts as provocative or offensive in the first place. The Western world dragged itself out of the church-dominated Dark Ages and into the Enlightenment in part over this precise issue: The freedom to engage in speech and actions which formerly had been classified as the crime known as “blasphemy.” It seems such a trivial and quaint issue in retrospect, and hardly worthy of note from our hyper-secularized 21st-century perspective, but tell that to the millions of people who for centuries lived under the yoke of governments which used accusations of blasphemy and other religious misbehaviors as a primary tool of tyranny and oppression. The modern world dawned with the American and French Revolutions and the emergence of the explicitly secular state — the Americans rejecting the Church of England as Britain’s legally enforced national religion, and the French shrugging off centuries of acquiescence to domination by the Catholic Church in civil affairs. In both cases, new governmental paradigms were established in which there was an inviolable separation of church and state, which in practice meant no civil laws enforcing religious doctrines and (most importantly for our discussion) no laws against blasphemy.

So Everybody Draw Mohamed Day is a good thing because it affirms who we are — an Enlightened Western civilization dedicated, in varying degrees, to free speech — and because it reminds everyone that, in a pluralistic society, no one group gets to use violence and intimidation to engage in capricious, and increasingly restrictive, decisions about what is offensive.

To me, though, the most important reason for observing Everybody Draw Mohamed Day is to remind us, not of who we are, but who we are NOT.  As a nation, we are not Muslims.

Of course, some of us are Muslims, but those who are, at least in America, are Muslims voluntarily.  This is, after all, a a nation dedicated to the proposition that its citizens can worship freely.  Provided that we do not impinge on the public well-being, we are allowed to choose our faith, follow our chosen doctrine, and engage in the many and varied religious observances so freely available in this great land.

If I’m Catholic, I get to go to Mass and, if I’m very traditional female worshiper, I can wear a lovely lace mantilla in church.  If I’m Jewish, I attend my services on Friday night and Saturday morning.  If I’m ultra-Orthodox and male, I wear a prayer shawl; if I’m female, I wear a wig and modest clothing.  If I’m Mormon, I wear my ritual undergarments and have reserved to me the special privilege of access to the Temple.  If I’m Buddhist, I engage in contemplation.  If I’m Muslim, I pray five times a day and abstain from alcohol.  If I’m Unitarian, I believe anything I damn well please, as long as I do so in civil and liberal fashion.  Heck, such are America’s blessings that I can be nothing at all, turning my back on God, and sneering every time I see a coin with the imprint “In God We Trust.”   I am what I believe I should be, what my family raised me to be, and what my chosen religious community practices.

But if I accede to Muslim demands that I refrain from drawing Mohamed or pigs or boars or ice cream logos or buddhas, I have tacitly conceded that I am Muslim.  After all, I am conforming my behavior to Muslim doctrine.

Muslims understand this.  Their rage over these images isn’t about the images themselves.  It is, instead, about incrementally drawing all of us into the Muslim faith.  The reality is that, once you’ve stopped creating images offensive to Muslims, and stopped making movies offensive to Muslims, and stopped writing books offensive to Muslims, and stopped saying things offensive to Muslims, and stopped your stores from selling the pork and alcohol offensive to Muslims, and attired your women in burqas to protect them from rampaging Muslims, well — you’re pretty much a practicing Muslim.  You’ve been converted, and you didn’t even realize it was happening.

And once you’ve crossed that invisible line, a line known only to your new Muslim overlords, woe unto you if you try to reverse that conversion process.  Apostates, by turning their back on Mohamed, deserve death.  So really, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  If you don’t comply with all the Muslim restrictions, they threaten to kill you — and if you do comply with all the Muslim restrictions, they still threaten to kill you.

So this is where the rubber hits the road.  You’re between a Muslim rock and an Islamic hard place.  Do you take a stand now, while your freedoms still mean something, or do you simply acquiesce, step by step, until you find that you have no freedoms at all, that there are no compatriots willing to stand by you in the fight, and that y0ur remaining options are between a living or an actual death?

By the way, it’s that fighting compatriot thing that really matters right now.  As Sam Harris says, after describing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s life (emphasis mine):

The problem is not, as is often alleged, that governments cannot afford to protect every person who speaks out against Muslim intolerance. The problem is that so few people do speak out. If there were ten thousand Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, the risk to each would be radically reduced.

Whether you realize it or not, this is war.  When we draw Mohamed today, we don’t do so to be offensive, or provocative.  We do so to assert our identity and to declare, standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow soldiers in this war, that we are Westerners dedicated to freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

In that spirit, and with all due respect to Muslim sensibilities (meaning I won’t draw Mohamed immersed in urine, covered in fecal matter, attached to animals, or any other such demeaning imagery), here is my image of Mohamed, pictured in this reverential medieval Islamic art as a swaddled baby on the day of his birth:


Rhymes with Right

Looking for Lissa (who reminds us that Islamists aren’t averse to their own, very vile, cartooning to achieve political goals and intimidation)

Michelle Malkin

You can take the Hot Air poll (with numbers now currently strongly favoring Draw Mohamed Day)

James Hudnall

Brad Thor

Liberty Pundits (which has a nice nod to me, which I very much appreciate)

Mark Steyn


And please re-read Broken Windows, which explains why standing up now is so very important

Robert David Graham

JoshuaPundit explains why he isn’t participating, and where our energies would be better spent

[Small update:  I’ve very lightly edited the post to get rid of verbal tics and redundancies.  They do tend to slip in.]

Wolf Howling synthesizes so much information about the attack on the Catholic Church

Wolf Howling has put together just a stellar post about the ongoing attacks on the Catholic church (along with a very nice link to yours truly).  If this is a subject that interests you — and it should, whether or not you’re a Catholic, because it goes to attacks on a pillar of Western civilization — I urge you to check it out.

The attack on the church continues apace; or, so that’s why he became a priest! *UPDATED*

The media is making hay of the pedophilia scandal involving the Catholic Church.  I think that Leftists see issue this as the single brick, down at the bottom of the wall, that, if pulled at hard enough, will bring the whole edifice tumbling down.

Just as Jews are persecuted because they symbolize justice (whether or not individual Jews can always attain those standards) so too is the modern Catholic church vigorously attacked because it symbolizes morality (again, regardless of individual failures).  A Leftist society cannot tolerate either of those symbols, both of which might give people the idea that a totalitarian government is neither just nor moral.

But the attack is working.  The haters are coming out of the woodwork.  On my facebook page, liberal friend after liberal friend attacks the Church.  Today, several people focused on the fact that, today of all days, the Church had the temerity to focus its Easter observances on . . . well, Easter.  How can the church be silent, asked my friends, about the scandal on this day of all days?  Well, maybe because, on this day of all days, they were focusing on a bigger, core issue — such as the central religious tenet of Christ’s resurrection.

What’s even worse are the comments I’m seeing that essentially say that the sole reason men have become priests throughout the church’s history is to indulge in their lust for small children.  Bet you didn’t know that.  I certainly didn’t.  I always thought men joined the priesthood for a variety of reasons:  deep faith, poverty (certainly true in the Middle Ages), etc.  But I was entirely wrong.  The Left knows better:  The only reason men become priests is to molest small children.

You may feel free to embroider on this post in the comment section, below.  As for me, I’m speechless.

UPDATE: I knew that hearing from you all would stimulate my creative juices, so I wanted to add a little more here.

There is no doubt that bad people will be attracted to the priesthood for the wrong reasons.  But what’s happening is that this attack imputes evil and wrongness to everyone who is attracted to the priesthood.  I find that simply dreadful.  The comments you all wrote go exactly to that point — and to the way this witch hunt (and that’s what it is) is being used to destroy individuals and an entire institution.

Part of the problem is, I think, that in our highly sexualized culture, people are unable to acknowledge that there are others out there, men and women, who aren’t interested in sex — whether with people of the same or the opposite sex.  It’s just not important to them.  The suspicion, therefore, is that celibacy must inevitably twist people, or that it’s always a lie, and only twisted people will engage in that pretense.

I find the whole thing upsetting.  As a Jew, I’ve had my issues with the historic Catholic church, but as a conservative, and a rational thinker (and a Jew in the post-JPII era), I think it is an important institution that stands as a bulwark against anarchy, both moral and spiritual.

UPDATE II: One of my favorite Catholic writers (hey, one of my favorite writers generally) is Patrick O’Hannigan.  He too is dismayed by the combination of venom and intellectual dishonesty liberal bastions are aiming at the Catholic church.

Another example of how liberals teach our children — even when they’re unclear on the concepts themselves

Readers of my blog know that one of my personal bête noires is liberal indoctrination in public schools.  I blog about it frequently.  My last outing on that subject was here, and I’ll get back to that in a little bit.  First, though, I’d like you to see how one public school teacher saw fit to educate American children about America’s involvement in WWII, as well as the response of one politely appalled man who was actually involved in the historic moment at issue.

Not only is this kind of indoctrination par for the course, it’s produced at least one generation of people who can throw out conclusions to their heart’s content, but are incapable of backing them up with common sense or actual knowledge.  And that’s how we wrap around to that post of mine that I mentioned earlier.  If you link over to it, you’ll see that I spoke with my daughter about a teacher’s facile and ill-educated assertion that “all civilized countries” have socialized medicine.

I carefully led my daughter through a few fairly uncomplicated facts.  A lot of uncivilized countries (North Korea, Cuba, the former Soviet Union) have socialized medicine.  I also pointed out what is undoubtedly true, which is that those countries with socialized medicine cannot maintain them.  They work well initially when a big chunk of taxpayer money is poured into them, but that they then go downhill:  they don’t generate revenue themselves and, since they suck up wealth, they leave the taxpayer pool less wealthy and therefore less able to pay for them.  This isn’t rocket science and, more importantly, it’s not ivory tower theory — it’s actual real world fact, as proven by real world, actual events.

What’s interesting is what happened with my post when it got picked up on a liberal thread at (the thread is entitled “libertarian” but it’s clearly not, as the tenor of the comments indicates).  The liberals are very angry at what I wrote, but they don’t have substance to back up their anger.  Lots of insults, lots of conclusions, but no facts and no coherent, sustained argument.  Here are a few comments, plus my replies:

Wow, there is actually book that describes why the mother is an idiot, it is called Economics 101 – look in to it.  [Insult, conclusion; no argument.]

Also, dear mother: You do realize you already pay for the uninsured, right? You just pay 20 times as much as you should. Why is this not considered a tax?  [Boy is s/he unclear on free market concepts.  If the market wasn’t stultified by thousands of government regulations, not to mention the perverse incentives of mass buying by employers, there shouldn’t be uninsured.  Also, I don’t think I should be for the 30% of uninsured who are illegal aliens under any circumstances.]


Unfortunately, this kind of overly simplistic thinking is exactly why the tea party has no credibility. As cutesy as the exchange is, “Momma” didn’t address the fact that universal health care is working in many countries in Europe (not that it’s sustainable, but that’s not that point).  [I’m delighted this person thinks I’m cute, but the fact is that if universal health care is unsustainable, it’s not working in Europe, no matter how much you wish it was.  As it sucks money out of the economy, the initial benefit vanishes, with the health care system in Britain the perfect example.   You don’t need a Harvard PhD to figure that one out.]

Not only that, but the link that was posted at the end about the girl getting the abortion:

a) has absolutely nothing to do with the exchange about health care. b) I don’t see why the girl should be forced to tell her parents…we should be expanding the rights of the youth, not restricting them.  [Had the person read my post, s/he would have realized that it was relevant, as I explained, because it goes to the way in which public high schools indoctrinate students, right to the point where they bypass parents entirely when it comes to political hot topics such as abortion.]

tl;dr? As a hardcore libertarian, I think this article reeks of sensationalist neocon.  [Uh, I don’t read hardcore libertarian here.  I read Progressive troll.]


That was a lot of stupid in one place. Too bad the teacher did not point out that the CBO said that the bill saves money, not costs money. [Where to begin.  Here, perhaps.  The person also doesn’t understand that the CBO was forced to work with the numbers that Congress used as predicates for the bill, rather than actual real world costs.  Even with that, as Paul Ryan carefully explained, the bill is affordable only because of accounting jiggery-pokery and because of deferred costs.] Perhaps they are wrong, but that mom had better go over the figures and say where they are wrong. Then the teacher could point out how the bill helps small businesses get health care for employees. Then there was that deep dishonesty that North Korea having universal health care, both false and distracting from Europe and Canada and all that.  [All communist countries have universal health care because they have no private enterprise.  To the extent there is any health care, it comes from the government.  Of course, perhaps what this person meant is that North Korea has no health care at all, because the government has run out of money and the people are eating dirt.]

Insults, conclusions, false facts, ignorance — what are they teaching young people nowadays?

UPDATE:  If you’ve come this far in the post, you’ll know that the history teacher who put a unique spin on WWII history had edited the iconic Iwo Jima photograph to turn the flag into a McDonald’s arch with Arabic writing.  Perhaps that teacher was educated at the same schools as our president who managed, in his Easter message, to edit Jesus Christ out entirely, including the part in which he quoted from a WWII pastor.  (See also Flopping Aces, which tipped me off to this one, and which adds some more information.)

I understand that the president of a multicultural United States must be careful not to speak in such overtly religious terms that he sounds more as if he’s giving a sermon, than a speech.  One cannot avoid, however, the fact that Easter is a Christ centered religion.  (Unless, of course, Obama is actually celebrating the Pagan rite of spring which involved fertility goddesses and suchlike.)  For Obama, who professes to be a Christian to edit Christ out entirely from a message that should, in theory, resonate personally with Obama, is somewhat surprising.

Raise your hand if you believe Obama actually prays with his Blackberry *UPDATED*

Shortly after I started practicing law, the California State Bar decided mandated that all lawyers must comply with annual “Minimum Continuing Legal Education” (“MCLE”) requirement.  I was instantly incensed, because it was immediately obvious to me that this had nothing to do with improving the practice of law and everything to do with providing a permanent customer base for organizations providing class content.

Big firms were allowed to offer “in house” MCLE, which, depending on the firm, could mean a beautifully structured education program or just a hoary old partner standing before a room full of bored associates droning on about his past trial victories.  Either approach would be sufficient to fulfill the Bar’s requirements.  For those without the big firm outlet, MCLE meant going into the market place.

Lawyers with pricey practices at their back would take the same cool seminars (these, for example) that they intended to take anyway.  These seminars are expensive, averaging about $100 per MCLE hour.

Those lawyers without a lot of money at their back hunted around for affordable MCLE, costing between $12 and $25 per hour.  A marketplace did spring up for these seminars, and I can tell you something about them:  they’re awful.  They’re a giant con aimed at satisfying a blanket requirement from a regulatory agency.  Fortunately, as the decades have passed, more and more of these awful ones have gone on line, which means you can run them in the background with the volume off or fill out the “tests” with the answers online open before you, and fulfill your requirement.  No learning necessary; just pay your fees, ignore the stupid content, and play the bureaucratic game.

At this point, you’re wondering what in the world this has to do with Barack Obama, right?

Well, it has to do with the emerging truth that this “religious” man who spent two decades in the pews of a church devoted to a religion centered on black self-aggrandizement, antisemitism, and hatred for whites and America, just can’t seem to find a satisfactory church in church-rich Washington, D.C.  To offset this problem, he’s turned to technology:

So when he needs a little inspiration in the mornings, Mr Obama revealed today that all he has to do is read the daily prayer emailed to him from pastors around America.

‘It’s a wonderful thing,’ the president said of his hi-tech devotionals.

I’m perfectly willing to believe that Obama does indeed get prayers emailed to his handheld.  I have serious doubts that he reads them.  I suspect that, like the lawyers buying their cheap and useless MCLE hours, Obama goes through the charade without any intention of dealing with the substance.

UPDATEHot Air catches Obama explaining that his wonderfulness is the reason no ordinary church can hold him.

God and Gaia; or, the difference between a religion that serves man and one that serves Nature

I went to church yesterday, as I periodically do when one of my children performs at a church service.  Since I don’t take communion, I can sit in the pew and watch people as they file back from the experience.  Some look businesslike, some contemplative, some uplifted and some, interestingly, look self-righteous.  It’s the latter who interest me today.  These are people who, at that precise moment in time, the moment of communion, feel that they are a better person than those who haven’t taken communion.  Hold that thought, because I want to talk about other worshipers and self-righteousness.

There was an article last week about the fact that people who go green are more likely to cheat and steal.  Thus, a couple of studies have shown that, while people who merely look at green products feel ethically inclined, people who finally commit to the extra expense and buy those same products suffered a huge moral decline:

Buying green products—some of the volunteers were given $25 to spend in the green store, while others were given $25 to spend in the conventional store—had an entirely different effect. Volunteers who bought up to $25 worth of ecofriendly stuff from the green store shared less money ($1.76) than those who purchased from the conventional store ($2.18). (Just to be clear, the volunteers were not given a choice about which online store to patronize.) For the green buyers, altruism in the dictator game decreased. More alarming, when the green buyers were then given a chance to cheat on a computer game, and lie about it to the scientists in order to win more money—basically, to steal—they did. Buyers of conventional products did not. And in an honor system in which they took money from an envelope to pay themselves their winnings, the green buyers stole six times more than the conventional buyers did.

“In line with the halo associated with green consumerism…people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green products,” Mazar and Zhong write in their upcoming paper. But they “act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products than after purchasing conventional products.” Or, as Mazar put it to me, “we are more likely to transgress morally after we have bought ourselves some moral offsets” (analogous to carbon offsets: buy enough so you can drive that Hummer). It was especially striking that the moral balancing occurred in an area of life—being generous with money, cheating on a computer game—that has nothing to do with green behavior. “This suggests that if we want to change people’s behavior for the better, we have to be sure it doesn’t backfire,” says Mazar—starting, perhaps, by eliminating the halo of self-congratulatory, smug virtuousness that surrounds green behavior.

I think Mazar and Zhong are a little too simplistic in blithely saying that people who engage in some self-righteous virtue think they’re buying the right to transgress.  I suspect that the answer to greenies’ dishonesty lies in the nature of their faith, rather than in just buying green indulgences.  I say this because I don’t believe the people who left church yesterday, bathed in the self-righteousness of communion, were more, rather than less, likely to steal or cheat.  In fact, I believe the opposite is true:  imbued with the word (and body) of God, I think they were more likely to treat their fellow man well.

And it’s that “fellow man” thing that makes the difference.  Even though both Judaism and Christianity are deo-centric religions, the lessons that God imparts to man have little to do with how to treat God and much to do with how to treat ones fellow man.  Look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus and you’ll realize that, but for the first few commandments regarding God’s supremacy and the prohibition against idol worship, they all deal with human-to-human interactions, rather than human-to-God:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

Do not have any other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

For six days you shall labour and do all your work.

But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

As much as anything, the righteousness in God’s “big” rules derives from ethical and just behavior to ones fellow man.  Think too of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount which, again, is rich with lessons about kindness from one person to another:

1And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

2And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Following the word of God, being bathed in self-righteousness, means treating ones fellow man well, not badly.  Someone leaving church with the taste of communion wafer in his mouth is more likely to fill the beggar’s cup, than steal it.

Gaia-worship, by contrast, is devoid of any ethical rules regarding humans.  Indeed, pure Gaia worship views humans as parasitical destroyers who, ideally, should be stamped out.   The only moral code in Gaia worship is to reduce ones carbon footprint.  Having purchased a green car, or detergent, or heating system, one gilds the Gaia lily by making a fellow-human less happy.  After all, a less happy fellow human might be more willing to do away with himself (Gaia-purging?) or to stop having those damned carbon devouring children.  The moral imperative, if there is one, is to make ones fellow man less, rather than more happy.  A starving beggar might soon be a dead beggar, and that’s a good thing for Mother Earth.

By the way, I am 100% certain that 90% of Gaia worshipers do not have such explicit evil, genocidal thoughts about their fellow humans.  (Although Bart Stupak’s comments about the ugly utilitarianism behind his fellow Democrats’ push for abortion funding — more abortions means cheaper health care — does give one pause.)  I’m also certain, however, that these worshipers, buoyed by the heady feeling of virtue of being green, leave the green shrine at their local store, feeling not only powerful, but also unfettered by any anthropocentric morality.  They have become green demigods and can act with impunity.  Their fellow citizens, who are despoiling Gaia, do not deserve the demigod’s compassion.  This is not a conscious thought; it is, instead, an unconscious absence of traditional morality that affects feelings and conduct.

I’ve always been a huge fan of traditional religion because, despite its overt deism, it is fundamentally anthropocentric.  I find frightening the rise of a religion devoid of compassion, justice and morality.

I think I’ll leave the last word on compassion faith to Leigh Hunt’s Abou ben Adam:

Abou ben Adam (may his tribe increase!)

awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight of his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

an angel, writing in a book of of gold.

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adam bold,

And to the Prescence in the room he said:

“What writest thou?” The vision raised its head,

And, with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?”said Abou, “Nay, not so,”

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerily still, and said, “I pray thee, then,

Write me as one who loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again, with a great awakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blest,

And lo! Ben Adam’s name led all the rest.

PCUSA not only ignorant, but mercifully out of step with the American mainstream *UPDATED*

Brutally Honest brought to my attention the fact that the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) has released a statement denouncing Israel in terms that a Hamas member or Ahmadinejad could easily love:

The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) is about to release a report which denounces Israel as a “racist” nation which has absolutely no historical, covenantal, or theological right to the Holy Land. The report calls for the United States to withhold financial and military aid to Israel and for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. That’s not all. The report also endorses a Palestinian “right of return” and “apologizes to Palestinians for even conceding that Israel has a right to exist.” According to the press release, it also states that Israel’s history begins only with the Holocaust and that Israel is “a nation mistakenly created by Western powers at the expense of the Palestinian people to solve the ‘Jewish problem’.”

You can read more of PCUSA’s gibbering nonsense, along with Rick’s appropriate outrage, here.

I don’t have to inform you, my dear readers, of the many things wrong with PCUSA’s viewpoint, whether “historical,” “covenantal,” or “theological,” but I find the timing of the statement almost amusing.  You see, with exquisite ignorance and the timing that only a fool could achieve, PCUSA released that statement two days after archeologists made a major find, tying the archeological record in Israel ever closer to the Old Testament.  That would be the same Old Testament that describes a thousand years of Jewish life in Israel.  This OT record, of course, precedes a New Testament, a Roman record, a medieval European record, an Ottoman record, a British record, a League of Nations Record, a UN record, and a State of Israel record, all tying Jews to that same spot of land for another 2,500 years or so.

So about that most recent archeological find:

The greatest threat to the hopes of those who think parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up in the city, but rather when Jews start digging into the ground of East Jerusalem. Because the more the history of the city is uncovered, the less credible becomes the charge that Jews are alien colonists in what the media sometimes wrongly refer to as “traditionally Palestinian” or “Arab” Jerusalem.

That’s the upshot from the release of an amazing archeological dig conducted just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. The excavations conducted by archeologist Eilat Mazar in the Ophel area revealed a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem. According to the press release from the Hebrew University, under whose auspices the project was carried out, the dig uncovered the wall as well as an inner gatehouse for entry into the royal quarter of the ancient city and an additional royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse as well as a corner tower. While ancient buildings are not uncommon in the city, the significance of this discovery is the fact that these edifices can be dated to the 10th century before the Common Era — the time of King Solomon, credited by the Bible for the construction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Pottery found at the lowest levels of the dig is dated to this era.

Even more telling is the fact that bullae — seal impressions — with Hebrew names were found, as well as seal impressions on jar handles inscribed with the words “to the king,” which means they were employed by the Israelite state in that time. Inscriptions on the jars, which Mazar says are the largest ever found in Jerusalem, showed them to be the property of a royal official.

Read more about this wondrous peek through time into ancient history here.

Fortunately, PCUSA’s poison, though virulent, doesn’t seem to be spreading too far or too fast when it comes to ordinary Americans and their respect for the only truly free democracy in the Middle East — and one that, like America, finds herself in the crosshairs of radical Islam.  Thus, even as the Left, including the Left appearing in the guise of faith, becomes more deeply enmeshed with purveyors of antisemitism, misogyny, anti-Christianity, and anti-Americanism, ordinary Americans are increasingly more supportive of Israel.  Indeed, according to Gallup, your neighbors and mine have reached almost new heights in their respect for this beleaguered bastion of freedom:

For the first time since 1991, more than 6 in 10 Americans — 63% — say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Fifteen percent side more with the Palestinians, down slightly from recent years, while a combined 23% favor both sides, favor neither side, or have no opinion.

You can see more data here.

Public opinion is fickle, but I think Americans’ basic goodness remains true.  Despite pressure from the media and from our American educational systems to view the Palestinians as the underdog, I think Americans are slowly beginning to see that the group that glories in washing its hands in Israeli blood, that gleefully treats its children as cannon fodder, and that stridently rejects every peace-making offer on the table, even as it loudly repeats its genocidal desires regarding its neighbors, might not be deserving of sympathy or support.

UPDATEHere’s the invaluable Phyllis Chesler on the subject.

UPDATE IIRusty’s unimpressed too, and that despite considering himself a less than rigorous Christian.  I have to agree, speaking from the Jewish perspective, I have no words for how bad PCUSA is, and what a disgrace I believe it to be to American Christianity.  It no longer represents religion; it represents Leftism and antisemitism draped in a vaguely religious mantel.

The President’s religious desire to reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

On the subject of the “secular humanism religion” that guides liberals, it’s informative to read this quotation from William Kristol, writing about Obama’s sudden imperative need to do away with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the American military:

But the repeal is something that Obama campaigned on. He believes in it. But with all due respect to his sincerely held if abstractly formed views on this subject, it would be reckless to require the military to carry out a major sociological change, one contrary to the preferences of a large majority of its members, as it fights two wars. What’s more, it isn’t a change an appreciable number of Americans are clamoring for. And even if one understood this change to be rectifying an injustice, the fact is it’s an injustice that affects perhaps a few thousand people in a nation of 300 million.

But, “It’s the right thing to do,” said the president.

Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”

In other words, although the liberal’s faith doesn’t derive from God, it’s a faith all the same.  The only difference is that liberals, because their unnamed God is the government itself, have no problem crossing the Constitutional dividing line and using the coercive power of government to force people to worship at their shrines.

For a cogent discussion of the practical problems that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would create, read J.E. Dyer’s article and her earlier post on the subject.  And for a revealing look at the military bureaucracy’s lumbering agreement to comply with the President’s ill-thought out wishes, check this out, at the Daily Caller.

Leftist tactics to scare the uninformed about America’s religious freedoms *UPDATED*

I got a very hysterical form letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  What’s impressive about it is that Barry Lynn, the Executive Director who purportedly authored this fevered screed, is totally uninformed about the nature of America’s Constitutional mandates regarding religion.  Here’s what the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Boiled down to its essence, the First Amendment says that government in American may not control people’s religious worship.

By stating this principle, the Founding Fathers sought to distinguish themselves from the European tradition that saw government actively interfering in people’s religious practices.  On the one hand, European governments dictated which religion citizens should worship and often controlled the doctrinal substance of that state approved religion.  On the other hand, these same governments brought harsh civil penalties to bear on those who refused to comply with state religious mandates.  The easiest example to point to, of course, is England, which was the situation against which the Founders were reacting.  Not only were the State and the Church of England inextricably intertwined (with the monarch as head of the church), but England in the late 18th Century still had multiple laws on its books barring people who were not C of E from serving in the government or even obtaining a higher education.

Although Leftists deny it, Thomas Jefferson was imply reiterating the principles in the First Amendment when he coined the phrase “separation of church and state” (a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution itself).  Although Progressives like to forget this fact, Jefferson was a very religious man, although he was sufficiently private in his worship that he avoided incorporating it into public ceremony, as Washington and Adams had done.

In late 1801, while still President, Jefferson received a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association complaining that, as a religious minority in Connecticut, the state was treating their religious rights as privileges from the legislature, rather than immutable rights inherent in all citizens.  Jefferson’s reply makes it plain that the Legislature can neither grant nor deny religious rights, since it is not the responsibility of the American government to interfere in church function and doctrine (emphasis mine):

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem & approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful & zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more & more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson

It is manifestly clear from perusing both the Bill of Rights and Jefferson’s own letter that none of the Founders intended that religious people must be barred from civil participation.  They can bring their values to bear in the civic arena, even if those values are religiously inspired.  What they cannot do is hijack the government so that the government uses its coercive powers to force people to worship a specific faith, to interfere with a religion’s doctrine, or to punish or ostracize people for practicing a faith that the government does not sanction.

These subtleties — the difference between government controlled religion, which is bad, and a religious people whose religion informs their conduct, which is constitutionally neutral — completely eludes the anti-religious Left.  They want people who enter government to check their religion at the door.  They are incapable of understanding that the complete absence of religion is a religion in and of itself, with faith in government and its bureaucracy being substituted in place of faith in God and his morality.

During the 1980s, religious people called this Leftist faith “Secular Humanism.”  As a thoughtless, knee-jerk Leftist myself during those years, I actually appreciated the label (“Hah!  I’m a Humanist”), but rejected the Religious Right’s contention that Secular Humanism is itself a religion.  To the Left, something can be a religion if the word “God” (or, if you’re polytheistic, “Gods”) is involved.  None of us on the Left understood (or, at least, the thoughtless amongst us refused to understand) that Secular Humanism is a religion because it is a comprehensive belief system.  The only difference between Secular Humanism and traditional “religion” is that, in place of an omnipotent deity, secular humanists worship an omnipotent government that rejects traditional Judeo-Christian moral and social values.

It is this Secular Humanist faith that explains the letter I received today, parts of which I reproduce below, along with my interlineations in red:

Do you know how the Religious Right is now targeting your neighborhood, and every town and city in America?

By joining local school boards and local communities . . . winning local elections . . . and creating local precedents with NATIONWIDE consequences . . .

Dear Friend,

They want to hit you right where you live.

The Religious Right has hijacked Christianity and claims to speak for all people of faith . . . and its leaders and activists want to force their ultraconservative agenda on you and your community[You’ll notice that Americans United does not argue, because it can’t, that religious Christians are trying to enforce their faith on Americans, which would be unconstitutional.  Instead, it just makes it sound utterly evil that religious people want to get involved in local politics to advance their values, something that the Founders generally and Jefferson specifically would appreciate.]

The goal of the movement’s members is nothing less than to shatter the wall of separation between church and state . . . and force you to live a “moral” life.

Their morals!  [Again, this statement ignores the fact that our government is set up so that all citizens, including religious citizens, are welcome to get into politics to advance their values, including their “moral” values.  They just can’t use politics as a means of forcing you into their church, something even the hysterics at Americans United cannot say is the case.]

And if they can’t get into your public schools with creationism . . . if they can’t get into your pharmacy to deny patients and their doctors the right to make medical decisions . . . if they can’t use the power of their pulpits to choose your political representatives . . .  [If they can’t do all that, then they’ll leave more room for the Leftists to get into your public schools with endless scare tactics and indoctrination regarding anthropogenic climate change, pro-illegal alien propaganda, pornographic sex education, and identity politics and anti-marriage activism.]  UPDATEPer Atlas Shrugged, we now know that Lynn’s particular brand of non-deity center religion is being actively foisted onto American students.

. . . Then they’ll zero in on friendlier, more willing targets to get the political clout and legal precedents they need . . . which then may have nationwide ramifications.


[I’ve deleted the bit in Barry Lynn identifies himself, his career and his organization.]

Throughout those years, we’ve seen what happens when religious extremists like Pat Robertson and James Dobson get their way:

* A tax-funded “faith-based” initiative that forces citizens like you and me to pick up the tab for the Religious Right’s ideology-based social agenda.  [I have no idea what Lynn is talking about here.  As I detailed above, as a tax payer and a parent, I’m currently paying for my children to learn about increasing discredited AGW, the virtues of illegal immigration, radical sex education, anti-marriage values, victim-based identity politics, etc., all of which are part of the Leftist religious canon.  After all that kind of intellectual garbage, just how bad can the Religious Right’s “ideology-based social agenda be?]

* “Marriage amendments” that turn out anti-gay voters and swing elections.  [This is a perfect example of Lynn’s confusion about the different between a state religion, and religious people speaking up within a state.  The religious right did not seek to force people into a religious viewpoint about marriage in California.  That is, no one said, when we pass this law, you’ll all have to become Mormons.  But people who are religious and take seriously the fact that Western religions limit marriage to a man and a woman certainly did get out and vote.  What’s really ironic about Lynn’s sentence here is that it was Obama’s presence in the election that was the “swing” factor, since the same blacks who made their way to the polls so they could vote for him, also happen to come from religious backgrounds that created in them values antithetical to gay marriage.]

* Houses of worship endorsing political candidates, violating their tax-exempt status.  [If I remember my election history correctly, the Democratic candidates were barely able to peel themselves out of Leftist houses of worship, and had Leftist religious people crawling all over them.  I’m unaware of any celebrated case in which the IRS went after any church, Left or Right, for encouraging its voters values in such a way that the voters learned towards one candidate or another.  Churches are allowed to teach values — and in heated elections, those values may steer voters in one direction or another.  This is not the same as endorsing a candidate.]

* More restrictions on reproductive choices chipping away at the right of access to contraceptives and services that citizens have worked so hard to win since the 1960s.  [I don’t need to make my argument here again about the difference between religious people using the government to force all people to Catholicism or Baptism, so that they forswear abortion, something that hasn’t happened and won’t happen, and the fact that people of faith are disturbed by the number of abortions performed annually, and who seek to change the laws to change that situation.  What I do find interesting, however, is the way in which Lynn’s sentence makes it sound as if religious people aren’t “citizens.”  “Citizens” work for abortion; religious people are scary zombies who block citizens from their Progressive-guaranteed rights.  That kind of phrasing highlights the way in which the Left is incapable of acknowledging that religious people are citizens and that the Constitution clearly allows them to use government to advance their values, although not to advance their specific faith.]

I’ll stop here.  Believe it or not, there are three more single-spaced hysterical pages with this types of ignorant, mean-spirited demagoguery.

Long-time readers know that I don’t even really have a dog in this fight, as I am a non-religious Jew.  I am, however, intellectually honest, and it disgusts me to see the Left try to use our Constitution and the deeply religious Thomas Jefferson as vehicles by which they shut religious people out of politics and civic discourse.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

One Old Testament — Two Interpretations

It’s always interesting to hear my husband, a militant atheist, and me, a respectful agnostic/atheist, talk about the Bible to the kids.  Today, my husband tackled the story of the sacrifice of Isaac.  He told the kids that the whole point of the story is to remind religious people that they have to be blindly obedient to their God, no matter how evil or wrong his commands are.  I told the kids that it’s a stunningly important story, since it marked the beginning of the end of human sacrifice.

My husband has a different view of the story of Exodus too.  He refuses to celebrate Passover, because he says it commemorates the genocide of the Egyptians.  While it is certainly troubling that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to the point where the Egyptian First Born had to die (a neat parallelism, of course, to Pharaoh’s decision to kill the Jewish First Born), the fact is that Jews, for thousands of years, have celebrated Passover as a story of freedom — it’s the world’s first recorded slave revolt.  As celebrated, it isn’t a blood-thirsty tale of murder but is, instead, a story about Mose’s personal redemption, and about individual dignity and liberty.  It’s also a story about overarching human emotions:  self-sacrifice, greed, fear, etc.  Or, I guess, if you want to see it that way, it’s a story about genocide.

There are many troubling stories in the Bible, whether Dinah’s brothers slaughtering a whole town, Lot offering to throw his daughters to a rape-made crowd, or even the story of the circumcision of Moses’ son.  What’s striking about the Judeo-Christian tradition is that these religions have looked at these stories, some of which reach far back in pre-history, and have rejected their randomness and violence.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we tell these stories, but we keep our life lessons focused on justice and morality.  Just as it’s troubling that modern Muslims take literally Mohamed’s most violent prejudices and prescriptions, so too is it sad that atheists look at the Bible and see only a book of evil.

Apres le deluge — Dieu?

There’s been a fair amount of talk lately about Brit Hume’s “come to Jesus” suggestion to Tiger:

I don’t have a whole lot to say about that, other than it goes a long way to explaining why Hume left the MSM.  Not only could he not say that when he worked for ABC, he’d probably be barred from even thinking it.  As is often the case with me, my thoughts headed in a completely opposite direction from the obvious.

I was actually thinking about the end of Rome, Georgian England and pre-WWI America.  All three of them were distinguished by out-of-control behaviors.  One responded by collapsing, as it was unable to defend itself against external forces.  The other two responded by clamping down, hard and fast on societal wrongs.  I wonder if we’re again at that tipping point in time.

I won’t belabor Rome.  It rose; it fell.  Part of its fall was its overextended borders.  Part of its fall was an internal moral collapse that rendered it incapable of defending itself against its external enemies.  That collapse didn’t happen quickly, taking, as it did, hundreds of years, but it still happened.

When we think of Georgian England, we think of elegant architecture, and the calm rationalism of the Enlightenment movement.  The writer I always think of, of course, is Jane Austen, with her cool sarcasm and unwavering morality.  We see it as a formal, intellectual, rational time — which it was, in one sector of society.

Georgian England was also a time of exceptional licentiousness.  It’s no wonder that Hogarth bloomed artistically in that era.  His etchings exposed the evils of drinking, as in Gin Lane:

He also examined prostitution, which was overwhelmingly prevalent in Georgian England.  The plate below, the 6th in a series entitled “A Harlot’s Progress,” shows a clergyman masturbating a woman at the harlot’s funeral, mourners drink from atop the coffin and try to steal from within it, and a prostitute pick-pockets a mourner:

And of course, most of us are familiar with Hogarth’s famous “Rake’s Progress,” showing debauchery in the high life. This is the last plate, with the Rake reduced to insanity, thanks to syphilis:

By the way, modern England faces very similar cultural scourges today.  Here’s a New Year’s picture of a modern-day rake’s progress — a British girl so drunk, she’s passed out in the snow:

new2_958077aThat’s just one of thousands of pictures of debauchery that routinely find their way into the British tabloids, all of which bemoan the alcohol soaked culture that is modern Britain.  Most of these pictures are ignored outside of the tabloids, although there was a suitable furor when a drunken University student urinated on a war memorial.  Apparently, there are still some lines one cannot cross:

article-1220579-06D574A7000005DC-942_468x664America is having her own debauchery festival.  Performers simulate sex on stage (and in the audience); cities turn whole streets over to orgiastic behavior; and middle and high schools host x-rated “instructional” meetings for “victim” groups and promulgate pornographic reading lists — and that’s just the short list of cultural horrors.

The question is, where do we go from here?  And that’s where I think things get interesting.  The Romans fell apart (albeit in slow motion).  The Georgians responded with Evangelicalism.  Victorian propriety didn’t spring out of nowhere.  It was a very direct, and religiously based, response to the debaucheries of the Georgian period.  While Jane Austen demonstrates that the Georgian era always had a core of middle class moralists, it took the Victorians to elevate that morality to a national doctrine.

America’s path was a bit different.  America, as a frontier country that had fought a revolution steeped in Protestant doctrine never had the Georgian cultural experience, although it also embraced Evangelicalism.  (America, too, had giant revival meetings.)  It was, simply, a more moral county in the 1700s, so it didn’t need to have a Victorian cultural backlash in the 1800s.

However, America had her own severe problem in the 1800s, and that was alcoholism.  In the early to mid 19th Century, Johnny Appleseed wasn’t out there planting Golden Delicious and Fuji applies.  Instead, he was planting trees with apples specifically selected to make hard cider, a strong alcoholic drink.  And in the Wild West, the saloons weren’t cute places with sassy showgirls.  They were centers of exceptionally hard drinking and truly pathetic prostitution.

The temperance movement, rather than being a sour-faced movement of small-minded women dedicated to destroying men’s fun was, instead, a direct response to an unprecedented wave of enormously destructive alcoholism.  That women spearheaded the movement was unsurprising, since it was they who were at the mercy of alcoholic men who raped them, beat them and left them alone to raise children in a pre-birth control age.

Prohibition, the culmination of the temperance movement, brought its own crime problems in its wake.  Nevertheless, Prohibition did work insofar as its goal was to break the back of the drinking culture that was destroying America.  We drink today, but not as we drank then.  In that way, is was a successful Constitutional experiment.

Bottom line:  when debauchery takes over, society’s either collapse completely (as did Rome, which was unable to defend itself), or they take remedial steps (witness 19th Century  England and late-19th and early-20th Century America).  The question today is what will happen in Europe (and, specifically, England) and America.  Both countries are struggling with internal cultural collapse and external enemies.

If I was a betting woman, I would say that England will yield, both internally and externally, to Islam.  Externally, Islam will use bombs and guns to take over the country.  Internally, an exhausted population will be grateful for the moral constraints Islam imposes on an out-of-control population.  Religious prohibitions against alcohol will seem like a good thing, and the country, bounded on one side by debauchery and on the other side by guns and bombs, will willingly take on all the other limitations Islam imposes on formerly free populations.

In America, I think we’ll go the other way:  It won’t be Islam that destroys us, but Christianity that saves us.  I make this prediction as a Jewish woman who trusts that her Christian fellow-Americans will continue to believe in religious freedom.  This means that I don’t imagine a theocracy, with militant Christians taking over Washington at gun point.  I simply believe that Americans will look at what’s happening around them, and take refuge in traditional religious morality — and in this country, traditional religious morality is predominantly Christian.

Of course, America’s problems won’t end with a strong public resurgence of Judeo-Christian religious values.  With Europe almost certainly having collapsed before Islam, the external hostility directed at America will be overwhelming.  On the other hand, if America finds its hardcore Protestant roots, it can stand strong against that pressure.

The perilous state of religion in England

Two views of moral behavior, one from the source, and one from an English divine:

God:  Thou shalt not steal.  (Exodus 20:15)

A priest in England:  It is far better for people desperate during the recession to shoplift than turn to ‘prostitution, mugging or burglary’.

It is true that, under Jewish law, Jews in extremis are allowed to violate God’s rules.  The doctrine, known as “pikuach nefesh,” literally translates as “saving of human life.”  During the Holocaust, for example, rabbis explicitly told fellow Jews that they could violate kosher laws rather than starve to death.  Significantly, however, pikuach nefesh is not a free pass for immorality.  Instead, it must apply on a case by case basis, and the person to whom it applies must indeed be facing a mortal threat.

When an Anglican priest throws out wholesale advice to parishioners that it’s okay to go out and shoplift, and then justifies that advice it by saying that “God’s love for the poor outweighs his love for the rich,” he is not practicing pikuach nefesh.  He is practicing redistribution of wealth.

Something’s missing this season

Don Quixote and I were at the local mall.  The mall was getting ready for the shopping season, and it has some special events planned.  It even had a sign:


If you’re like DQ and me, you realize that something is missing from the sign:  there’s no mention of the actual holiday being celebrated, with the exception of a reference to some guy named Santa and a title allocated to December 24th — Christmas Eve.  Otherwise, we’re simply assured there are events going on to celebrate something, but we’re never told what the something is.

As a Jewish kid (admittedly, non -eligious, but definitely still Jewish), who grew up in a majority Christian culture that wasn’t embarrassed about showing itself, I adored the blessings of beautiful music, lovely images, and general joie de vivre.  At school, I learned all the carols, religious and secular, and can still belt them out with the best of them.  My kids know only Frosty, Rudolph, and Jingle Bells — good songs all, but such a minute fraction of the rich Christmas repertoire.  It’s only through their involvement in choral groups that they’re being exposed to the beautiful things men and women created as part of their religious celebrations and faith.

I’ll leave you with an antidote to the above sign, and an urge that you wish your friends a “Merry Christmas,” as well a happy or merry “whatever it is that they celebrate” this holiday season.  And if your friends are like me, they’ll appreciate the fact that, in America, people share their holiday celebrations without rancor or pressure.


The Reluctant Scribe is my Dear Friend, and I am his.  I may not be blessed with faith, but I am blessed with friends.  All of which means that I can only hope that the Abou Ben Adhem approach to God works for me.

Friday laugh — and a jab at the health care debate

Jack, the ExPreacherman, emailed me a great joke:

During a visit to the mental asylum, I asked the Director “How do you determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized?”

“Well,” said the Director, “we fill up a bathtub.  Then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No.” said the Director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

Jack, a devoutly religious man, sees that anecdote as a step towards thinking about eternal salvation.  I, a devoutly political woman, see it as a perfect analogy for the current insanity going on in the health care debate.  As I commented in a facebook string under my real name, it baffles me how the Democrats are completely willing to destroy and attempt to remake a a highly functional system when they could first try some more simple experiments, such as allowing greater competition, increasing the types of insurance that can be offered to the public (not everyone needs a gold plated plan), and limiting malpractice.  The Dems and their followers are not normal.

Both Jack and I in sync in one way, though, because religion is involved here.  Jack seeks salvation from God; the Dems seek salavation from the government.  If I were of a religious mind, I’d go in Jack’s direction every time.

Interesting notion about how to interpret the Bible’s first sentence

See what you think.

Confirmation that liberalism is a religion — and Obama is the God *UPDATED*

The Breitbarth site headlines the following video as follows:


With my pre-Obama mindset, I promptly inverted the language and read it as a normal sentence:


How naive I was.  This political activism group, in a Church, led by people in vestments, prays TO Obama.  Obama is their God.

UPDATE:  Ed Morrissey notes the possibility that the crowd is saying “hear our cry, Oh God!”  Or that some are saying “Oh, God!” and some are saying “Obama.”  He’s got a poll for those of you who want to chime in.  As for me, given that it looks as if a minister is giving an impassioned invocation about health care to a political group, I’m just wondering about that church’s tax exempt status.

Are enough Catholics still pro-Life for Obama’s game-playing to matter?

I have some familiarity with Church history and doctrine, owing to my background as a European history major.  I am woefully ignorant, however, about modern Catholicism — or, more specifically, modern American Catholicism.  I therefore have a question for those of you who are Catholic:  Does it matter to a critical mass of American Catholics that Obama is sponsoring a health care plan that requires Americans to pay for abortion and that he is lying about that fact?  Kathryn Jean Lopez thinks it matters a lot:

[T]he loss of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, one of the most prominent Catholic politicians in the United States, a leading proponent of the president’s health-care-reform push, should not obscure a pivotal fact: Barack Obama has put himself at war with the Catholic Church.


On August 11, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives about the health-care legislation under consideration. He highlighted legislative language that would open the door to taxpayer-funded abortions. He pointed out that when amendments were introduced this summer that would have protected against this — would have protected life — they were shot down. That’s a bad precedent. If that’s how life fares when the C-SPAN cameras are on, what happens when it comes time for the behind-closed-doors compromises?


On August 11, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives about the health-care legislation under consideration. He highlighted legislative language that would open the door to taxpayer-funded abortions. He pointed out that when amendments were introduced this summer that would have protected against this — would have protected life — they were shot down. That’s a bad precedent. If that’s how life fares when the C-SPAN cameras are on, what happens when it comes time for the behind-closed-doors compromises?

I agree with everything Lopez says — and I believe that Catholics who hold to the tenets of her faith will agree with her. I just wonder how many of those Catholics are left in America. I’m not talking about people who just say they’re Catholic, but people who actually believe this issue matters. Can you tell me how many of those people there are?  I know there were a lot in the 60s and 70s, but are they still around?  Or are the majority of Catholics people who pay lip service to these doctrines but don’t really belive that they apply to life in America?

An old Jewish joke and Kennedy’s Catholicism

The news lines are aflutter with the fact that the Vatican has kept mum about Kennedy’s death.  This is scarcely surprising given that Kennedy, although raised a Catholic, took (and sought to use his political power to impose on America) political positions that are anathema to the Church:

Edward Kennedy, it can be said, was not cut out for the priestly life. His first marriage to former model Virginia Joan Bennett, ended in divorce in 1982, with the marriage annulled by the Roman Rota more than a decade later. And there are the infamous episodes in his life that showed a man not quite in control of his demons. But ultimately, beyond his personal travails, Kennedy’s relationship with the Church hierarchy was destined for conflict because of politics. The Senator became both the face and engine of the liberal wing of the Democratic party that has long led the battle for abortion rights, stem cell research and gay marriage, all of which Catholic doctrine strictly forbids.

So really, considering that Kennedy rather brutishly pushed aside moral and doctrinal issues central to the Catholic faith, one has to wonder just how much of a Catholic he really was.  Which leads me to my Jewish joke:

Sammy Goldberg made it big in business, and the first thing he did was to go out and buy a very big yacht.  The second thing he did was to invite his mother on board so that she could see him in all his glory.  He met her in a lovely uniform he’d designed himself, complete with stripes on the sleeves, gold buttons and captain’s hat.

As his mother boarded, Sammy said to her, “Look at me, Ma.  I’m a captain!”

To which his mother replied:  “Sammy, by me you’re a captain and by you you’re a captain.  But tell me, by captains are you a captain?”

One can easily say the same of Kennedy’s affiliation with the faith of his childhood — and one can forgive the Vatican for its studied silence.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Obama crosses America’s one bright line *UPDATED*

One of the brightest lines in America, a line that goes back to our Founders and the Constititution, is the imperative rule that the American government stay out of religion.  That does not mean that people in politics cannot be religious or that their values cannot be informed by religion.  It does mean, though, that the government may not dictate doctrine or sermon.  Bruce Kesler takes Obama to task for doing just that.  Oy!  First the 10th Amendment and now this.  We are dubiously blessed with a president who doesn’t even bother to explain away his Constitutional violations.  He just tramples through those rights, supremely confident that he’s above the petty rules that have guided our nation for so long.

I’m sighing a lot lately.  Sigh….

UPDATE:  Peter Wehner makes an equally astute point:

Where Obama is getting into dangerous territory is when he takes a biblical injunction—we have a moral obligation to care for one another—and strongly implies that his health-care plan has God’s imprimatur. It is one thing to think theologically about public matters; it is quite another to describe what the right “Christian position” is. The temptation for people of faith who are in politics is to enunciate a principle—justice, compassion, peace, the rights and dignity of the individual, stewardship of the earth—and simplistically connect the dots, as if the principle itself easily translates into an obvious policy. It rarely does. And those who play this game create all sorts of confusion.

The purpose of Obama’s call to religious leaders was to create an implicit syllogism: if you love God and your neighbor, you will support ObamaCare. If Obama does not believe this, he has a responsibility to say so. Because as it now stands, based on the context of his comments (which was to urge those leaders to work on behalf of his health-care plan), this is a reasonable inference.

Some of us have criticized the Religious Right for making precisely this error—for portraying complex policy questions as ones for which there is only one obvious and “godly” answer; for denying that people of goodwill can disagree on which policies advance the common good; and for portraying those who hold differing views as cartoon figures driven by questionable or corrupt motives. This mindset is what Senator Obama warned against—but something that President Obama seems eager to embrace.

Engaged in a fierce public debate, with support for his health-care plans plummeting, Obama is jettisoning the subtlety and careful parameters about which he once spoke. He denies to others the presumption of good faith he once sought. One can only hope he feels a pang of shame at what he is doing—and that he pulls back before he creates a divisive and ugly conflict among people of faith.

I’ll add only that Obama represents the first time that a President has “portray[ed] complex policy question as ones for which there is only one obvious and ‘godly’ answer.” In the past (at least in the modern era), this line of argument has always been confined to special interest groups. And coming from special interest groups, the argument may fail because it doesn’t have broad appeal to those who don’t share your “godly” views, but at least it doesn’t implicate the Constitutional prohibition against the federal government interfering in matters of religion.

I wonder if God’s name was mentioned once at this “sermon”

Wright crawled out from under the bus to give a “sermon” at Glide Memorial in SF, a “church” more famous for its activism, than its religion.  Wright’s “sermon” was in keeping with the “church’s” mission, which is political, not religious:

In a half-hour, high-energy sermon, sprinkled with spontaneous songs, jokes and impersonations, Wright admonished the under-40 generation that Obama’s ascent to the White House is not the culmination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of equality for all.

“King did not dream that one person would become president, he talked about all people,” Wright said. “We still have a broken health care system, working poor, an education system that misleads our people … Gaza, Darfur and Sudan, and in California, you have Prop. 8.”

And apropos my increasing sense that Obama is a Manchurian candidate, created out of whole cloth, “Pastor” Amos Brown had this info for his congregants:

Brown called Wright a “scholar, gentleman and great builder of people,” and said that Obama would not have been elected had Wright not helped introduce him to influential people in Chicago.

Oh God! Obama.

It occurred to me that, two times in as many days, I’ve alluded to the first couple’s Messiah complex.  Yesterday, I noted that Michelle and Barack are pretty sure that John 3:16 applies to their willingness to “give” Obama to the American people and, just a few hours ago I did a post in which I mentioned Obama’s reiterated belief that his mere presence will bring peace to the world.

All of which leads to the inevitable comparison with George Bush.  You see, for all that the Left was up in arms about Bush’s religious beliefs, what made him a safer President than Obama is the fact that Bush, unlike Obama, believed in a God other than himself.